You are what you eat. We’ve all heard this before, but is it true? The short answer is yes. If you’ve been maintaining a poor diet, your skin is likely showing it. Instead, start maintaining a diet for clear skin and take a closer look at what you’re feeding your body.
Best Foods for Clear Skin
Interested in eating your way to a clearer complexion? A rule of thumb is to ensure your diet is comprised of foods from every color of the rainbow. The next time you’re out shopping for groceries, be sure grab these foods for clear skin:
Probiotics refer to the good, live bacteria that are known to improve overall skin health by promoting gut health. You can find a variety of probiotic supplements on the market but some of the best ways to add probiotics to your diet for clear skin include yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, and kombucha. If you take actions to fix your gut, any skin issues you may have are likely to improve as well. Healthy gut, healthy skin!
Turmeric is a spice with a vibrant yellow-orange color touted for its ability to help treat acne, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. The main active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, a compound commonly used to treat inflammation. Turmeric is often applied directly to the skin but it can also be ingested; try taking it in supplement form to fully experience the benefits.
Low-Glycemic Index Foods
The glycemic index is a measure that ranks foods by how they affect blood sugar levels. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, a low-glycemic diet may help reduce acne by preventing spikes in blood sugar. High-glycemic foods and beverages like white bread, potato chips, and sugary drinks can cause spikes in blood sugar, which then causes inflammation throughout your body as well as increased oil production. This combination of inflammation and excess oil can lead to -- yup, you guessed it -- acne. Switching to a low-glycemic diet that primarily consists of foods like vegetables, brown rice, and quinoa may be exactly what your skin needs, especially if you have acne-prone skin.
Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene and magnesium, which act as anti-inflammatory agents, plus the skin of these potatoes is a great source of fiber. Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which we already know is beneficial for stimulating production of new skin cells and supporting skin health.
Nuts and Seeds
In general, nuts and seeds are great sources of nutrients, although they each have their different strengths. Here are some to look out for:
- Chia seeds are known for their high antioxidant content, which helps fight free radical damage and signs of aging. They're also packed with omega-3 fatty acids to help strengthen your hair, skin, and nails, and reduce inflammation.
- Walnuts and almonds have healthy fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids. They’re also rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps with skin cell restoration and repair.
- Brazil nuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, which helps protect skin against free radical damage and cancer. Sunflower seeds are also packed with iron and copper, which defend against the breakdown of collagen.
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and other essential nutrients, particularly a compound known as EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate). This compound is effective in helping to reduce oil production, thereby reducing the likelihood of breakouts. Not only does green tea help alleviate acne, but it also helps improve your immune system and protect against sun damage.
Mom was right -- you need to eat your vegetables! Leafy greens in particular do wonders for the skin because they’re rich in minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients like chlorophyll, which nourish skin and protect against free radical damage. Chlorophyll benefits for skin include minimized wrinkles and reduced blemishes so turn over a new leaf and add greens like these to your plate:
- Spinach is a great source of vitamin A, which helps control oil production, strengthen skin cells, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Kale is rich in vitamins A and C. The body uses vitamin C to form collagen and heal wounds.
- Broccoli is similar to kale in that it’s full of vitamins A and C, but it’s also high in zinc and lutein, which protects skin from oxidative damage that can cause dryness and wrinkles.
Not into salads? Green smoothies are one of the tastiest ways to get your daily serving of veggies - you never know until you try it!
A wide range of berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are packed with antioxidants that help the body protect itself against free radical damage. In particular, they contain anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. If you have a serious sweet tooth, rethink the way you satisfy your sugar craving! Try swapping the sugary desserts for some fresh berries.
Mangoes are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that helps your skin repair itself, stay smooth, and fight the signs of aging. This tropical fruit is also rich in vitamin A to protect cells and help them regenerate by stimulating collagen production.
Foods to Avoid
Now that you know what foods should be included in a diet for clear skin, let’s go over what you should avoid. Limit your intake of dairy, alcohol, and sugar, which can all show up on the skin in the form of dullness, breakouts, or oiliness.
Thinking about ditching dairy? The relationship between dairy and acne has a lot to do with hormones and inflammation; dairy products contain natural hormones that can interact with our body’s own hormones, causing inflammation and increased oil production that results in new breakouts or worsens existing ones. Dairy products also contain lactose, which can be problematic since it raises blood sugar and can lead to allergic reactions for some individuals.
Clearly, dairy products have been linked to increased acne breakouts, although more research is needed to determine a direct correlation between the two. For now, try eliminating dairy products from your diet and see how your skin responds.
Sugary snacks and drinks take a toll on the skin. When you eat something containing a high amount of sugar, your body’s insulin levels increase in order to help stabilize your blood sugar levels. As with dairy products, this causes inflammation, which leads to increased oil production and the worsening of existing skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and acne. If you’re looking to maintain a diet for clear skin, sugar will definitely be something to pay attention to. You don’t necessarily have to cut it out of your diet completely, but be more mindful of your daily sugar intake.
Alcohol consumption affects the body by causing dehydration and inflammation. The result is dry, flaky skin, more visible wrinkles and fine lines, redness, and facial puffiness. Alcoholic drinks also tend to have high sugar content, which we already know has a negative effect on skin health in that it can lead to breakouts or worsen the ones you already have. Moderation is key so cut back on alcohol consumption to get one step closer to a healthy, clear complexion.
Eat Well, Feel Well
Skincare is much more than just the products you use on your face. Other than washing your face on a daily basis, choosing the right products for your skin type, and remembering to keep your skin hydrated, you should also be paying attention to how other aspects of your life affect your complexion, especially your diet. Acne is one of the main ways your body tells you that it’s out of balance and needs some attention and care, so feed it well.
Abby Vinas has long been an active member of the holistic health community, advocating in favor of its benefits to both our physical and emotional well-being. Her commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle has made her an authority on self-care practices. Abby is passionate about fitness, nutrition, and proper skincare, and is also an avid lover of avocado toast and dog-petting.